The powder room is the only room in your home where you let a visitor go unaccompanied. That person could be friend, family, foe or work person, and if you are really daring and generous, a stranger off the street. People can do anything in there; search your cabinets, look at your stuff and pass judgment on you if you’ve not emptied the trash or cleaned the toilet. You have no control. It is for that reason that you need to take charge of your powder room! If you keep no other room in your house clean, wipe down this one occasionally. As far as decorating is concerned, if you don’t know what to do with it, turn it into an art gallery or museum!

I first encountered the powder room, as it’s own tiny gallery, when visiting my brother’s new house twelve years ago. He and his wife have decorated theirs with dog-themed art. The counter around the sink has dog sculptures and ceramic pieces. They have a dog mirror over the sink. There is a metal sculpture of a dog walker on the wall and on the floor next to the toilet is a dog lifting his leg on a fire hydrant. There are dog paintings. The focal point of the bathroom is a giant oil portrait of a dog in a suit of clothes over the toilet. It is a great bathroom. I like spending time in there. When I need to buy a gift for them, I find myself adding to their collection of dog art.

The reason people are encouraged to “do up” their powder rooms is because it is the place where you can safely “go wild” with your decorating without screwing up. That is an oxymoron but que sera, as my dad used to say. It’s the smallest room in your house, so it is a good place to attempt, and hopefully succeed, to showcase your taste and talent.

I grew up in a hastily built 1970s development house in New Jersey. The powder room was in the back of the house and you traveled through the laundry room to get there. While it afforded more privacy then the not uncommon powder room next to the front door, it was certainly a weird place for your guests to go. At the very least your laundry had to be done and at best, your washer and dryer needed to be camouflaged. During parties, our washer and dryer held bags of chips and Jell-O molds.

My mom was always redecorating that powder room. Window coverings were very important as my brothers and sister swore that the neighbors were looking at them through the window. The neighbors assured me years later that they weren’t. My mom varied curtains and shades and even sprayed fake snow on the windows one year. We ended up ruining that effect by scraping it with our fingernails thinking it was ice. You could reach the window while sitting on the toilet. I’m sure window film had not been invented or my mom would’ve discovered it. It is a nice, inexpensive solution to privacy problems in the bathroom.

I love powder rooms, perhaps because people who take their powder room seriously, create a little jewel box of a space. I was at my friend, Kirsten’s house the other night and needed to use her powder room. I actually got excited to visit her “gallery” which has an architectural theme, probably because she is an architect. She has a painting of a row of buildings and a relief sculpture as well. These are hanging on a pale blue background. Before I ventured in I asked if she had added to the collection. “No,” she sighed. My disappointment must’ve been evident. “I’ll get on it.” I hope she does. It’s a great spot.

My in-laws have a cool powder room that is adjacent to a curved staircase. The wall of the powder room that is next to the stairs is curved and across from the toilet are lit glass shelves and mirrored walls. It is very elegant and I feel like a class act while I’m in there with all of their crystal doodads. Until, of course, when I glance at myself in the mirrored wall while using the necessary!

You can tell a lot about a person by their powder room. This is where your hosts reveal who they are; conservative, daring, fun, cerebral, etc. Your guest gets to know you without you looking on. This is why if you decorate no other room in your house, decorate the powder room!

My brother’s dog room inspired me to make a themed bathroom of my own. I’m not sure why but I chose to create a “nude” powder room. It has since become known as the “butt bathroom” in my town. Some people who come to my home for the first time have heard of this room and want to see it. “Butt Bathroom” is a simplistic and crass term for what is actually a tasteful collection of nudes. I have a sculpture of a naked woman lying along the sink, a brass nude behind the toilet, bronze naked men diving from the ceiling and the tour de force, a four foot by four foot male nude by Marie Murrell, from behind, on the wall opposite. A little treat for my guests sitting on the toilet!

Once I discovered a really long line outside my powder room during a party. I thought, “Wow, people really want to see the butt bathroom.” But no, I had done the pre-party bathroom cleaning, locked the door to keep my filthy boys out, and forgot to unlock it!

The beauty of making your powder room a gallery is that it is small and even the neophyte collector can tackle this job. Once you pick a theme, it is fun collecting the stuff. Dogs, Architecture, Nudes! What will you do?

Kathleen Thometz is an artist and writer. She lives with her husband, kids and doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the mid.com and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...